We spend 60 seconds with Christelle Rouille, CEO of Hynamics, subsidiary of EDF Group
What changes have you seen within the hydrogen ecosystem and community in the past year?
Recently, we’ve seen a major shift in two ecosystems:
First in the hydrogen ecosystem itself, calls for tenders and projects have multiplied around the world. The market is still emerging but is much more advanced than in previous years. We’ve moved on from demonstrators to proper business proposals that are building on the momentum. We’re talking to public and private stakeholders that are making firm commitments: buying vehicles, transforming their own industrial processes, etc.
Alongside that change, public and private stakeholders are grasping hydrogen’s importance in the energy transition and starting to make serious commitments in anticipation of improved air quality. Laws or bills are being announced and support mechanisms are gradually being launched in various countries to promote the production of low-carbon and renewable hydrogen in particular.
What hydrogen-related innovation, application or technology makes you most excited for the future?
It’s very exciting to witness accelerating improvements in the equipment’s performances, when we were almost completely limited to demonstrators. Young technologies are maturing whilst already mature technologies are becoming really effective. I’m delighted to see the role that H2 could play tomorrow, with countries like Japan aiming to be a hydrogen society. What’s so thrilling is that there’s still a huge range of possibilities ahead of us. We’ve started to harness a small part of the technologies’ potential and the benefits associated with hydrogen, but there are still endless possibilities for the future use of low-carbon hydrogen!
Are there any recent or upcoming hydrogen-related milestones in your company that you are especially proud of?
I’m proud of the EDF Group’s rock-solid position in the hydrogen sector. With its ambition to work on the energy transition, it’s identified the resource as a major pathway for decarbonizing the economy, for which it could supply low-carbon electricity. And that’s led to concrete actions: in 2018, EDF invested in the company McPhy, which manufactures 30-bar alkaline electrolysers, and launched Hynamics in 2019, the subsidiary producing and marketing low-carbon hydrogen. Those two measures show EDF’s current commitment to developing a new activity, a new business line, to support the energy transition and create new growth levers and jobs.
Which area of hydrogen development and deployment is your company investing in currently?
Hynamics, the subsidiary producing and marketing low-carbon hydrogen, is enabling us to develop a new business line in the EDF Group. We propose a business model that makes life easier for our customers by investing in production facilities and in charging stations when it comes to mobility. With the target of decarbonizing the economy, we’re working on the two areas that are the biggest CO2 emitters: industry, which needs hydrogen for its processes, and heavy-duty transport. Hynamics is being rolled out into a regional ecosystem with a local approach. The challenge lies in driving the projects forward to move from ‘small fry’ to large, semi-centralized platforms supplying industry and transport.
What has been the highlight of your Hydrogen Council membership so far (most enjoyed moment, most successful activity, etc.)?
Hynamics only joined the Hydrogen Council recently, around a year and a half ago. I have a very clear memory of the introductory speech made by the EDF Group’s Chairman Jean-Bernard Levy in San Francisco, when he announced that EDF was becoming a member. He emphasized EDF’s strong commitment to hydrogen as a key aspect of decarbonization.
What in your opinion is the biggest challenge for hydrogen in the near future, and how would you like to see it being tackled?
In my opinion, there are two challenges for hydrogen in the near future:
In operational terms, we’re going to have to find ways to reduce the CAPEX of electrolysis-generated hydrogen significantly if we’re to meet the huge demand. As a knock-on effect, the huge demand will enable us to build large-scale facilities. We also need to use the flexibility that electrolysis provides to optimize the supply of renewable and low-carbon electricity.
Then, when it comes to the authorities, we need to convince countries to trust us and implement support mechanisms, as happened with wind or solar power in the early 2000s. The mechanisms will vary across the countries and continents and reflect their strengths, but little by little they will make it possible to structure what’s already out there and make it more efficient.
What positive indicators for hydrogen deployment have you seen recently and what is your take on the impact they may have?
One positive indicator is public and private stakeholders’ growing awareness of the urgent need to work on the energy transition. Hydrogen comes across as an important asset that’s already prompting stakeholders to adopt a position: buying hydrogen and vehicles, considering the benefits of converting an industrial process to low-carbon hydrogen, etc. Therefore, the concrete position taken by manufacturers and local authorities is encouraging our work and ambition to go green.
What do you think the biggest misconception is around hydrogen right now?
Safety is a major issue that every industrial investor faces when they build production plants. That’s also true for hydrogen. New and existing stakeholders are fully aware of that and are working together within the Hydrogen Council on developing guidelines to make the facilities safe.
Are there any inspiring or exciting hydrogen-related projects going on outside of your company, or with your partners, that you would like to tell us about?
I’m delighted to see hydrogen projects emerging, especially those where hydrogen is low carbon produced. That indicates a general movement towards the energy transition. Every manufacturer that wants to change its situation is finding support from partners that may be rivals in other areas. The focus now isn’t on competition but on developing the low-carbon hydrogen sector, a new market, so that it becomes indispensable tomorrow.
If you could describe the future of hydrogen in one sentence, what would you say?
Low-carbon hydrogen isn’t science fiction but a future energy carrier and response to environmental issues. It gives an effective response to the climate challenges facing the planet.